Poland appears to have a growing bomb hoax problem after security alerts forced two commercial passenger jets to make emergency landings on the same day.
In one case, a Ryanair plane with 190 passengers and crew onboard was intercepted by F-16 fighter jets, while in another incident, the diversion of a packed flydubai aircraft forced the closure of Krakow Airport for several hours on Sunday night.
In fact, the diversion of the flydubai aircraft was the second bomb hoax against the same flight in just two months. Flydubai flight FZ-1830 departed the Polish capital Warsaw at 9 pm on Sunday evening bound for Dubai before suddenly turning back less than an hour into the flight.
The Boeing 737MAX quickly descended and made an emergency landing in Krakow where emergency services were scrambled and surrounded the aircraft on a taxiway. Local authorities even considered evacuating passengers onto the tarmac, although that plan was switched to normal disembarkation via stairs.
Earlier on Sunday, a Ryanair flight from Katowice to Athens was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets from the Greek Air Force after the pilots were notified of a bomb threat that had been made against the plane.
The Boeing 737 was initially diverted over the Aegean Sea and away from populated areas before being cleared to land at Athens International Airport.
Both aircraft were searched by the security services but, in both cases, nothing suspicious was found. The bomb scares were eventually classed as hoaxes.
Sunday’s events weren’t, however, isolated. In November, the same flydubai flight from Warsaw to Dubai was diverted to Ankara after a security threat was made against the plane. Yet, again nothing suspicious was found.
Thankfully, nobody was injured in those incidents but not all of the recent spate of bomb hoaxes have ended so well.
In July 2022, two Wizz Air flights were evacuated via the emergency slides after elaborate homb threats were made against the aircraft. In the first case, a flight from Bari, Italy to Krakow was diverted to Budapest and then evacuated onto the tarmac following an unsubstantiated bomb threat.
In the second incident, a Wizz Air flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion was sent to an isolated part of Krakow Airport before an emergency evacuation was ordered. Nothiong suspicious was found.
Poland’s flag carrier LOT has also suffered a spate of bomb hoaxes in recent months. Bomb scares were reported against the airline in December and April 2022. Unsurprisngly, nothing suspicious has ever been found.
In December 2022, a LOT Polish Airlines operated Embraer E170 was evacuated on the ground in Copenhagen following a bomb threat during the flight from Warsaw. The same month, 250 passengers and 11 crew were evacuated from a LOT airliner shortly after it arrived in Warsaw from Chicago due to a fake bomb threat.
And in April 2022, Warsaw Chopin Airport was closed for several hours and flights grounded after a threat was made against an Emirates flight on its approach to the city.
In that incident, air traffic controllers suggested that the threat had been telephoned into the airport. Local officials, however, have refused to release any further information about the spate of bomb hoaxes and it’s not known whether any arrests have been made.
There’s not even any word on whether Polish law enforcement are looking for just one suspect or whether there have been copy cat hoax calls. What we do know is that the problem is becoming costly for airlines and passengers and that the risk of someone getting hurt is ever present.
In some of these cases, planes have been evacuated via emergency slides which presents an immediate safety issue – passengers have been known to suffer serious injuries when evacuating via slides but this is generally considered a small price to pay if the alternative is possible death.
Of course, a fake bomb threat massively shifts the risk/benefit analysis and its no wonder that some pilots have refused to evacuate aircraft on the back of an anonymous threat.
One has to wonder how credible some of these threats have been? A threat has been made against a specific flight but is there any actionable intelligence to suggest that the threat might be real?
If there isn’t anything to back up the veracity of the threat, is it really necessary to divert or evacuate a plane? Especially when the chances are that given the layers of security surrounding the aviation industry, that the threat is a hoax?
That might divide opinion but its certainly a thought process that some airlines and governments apply to bomb threats – otherwise, planes would be diverting almost daily.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.